The ego is misunderstood.
When you hear the word ego, do you automatically think of the word egotistical? I bet most people do, unless you are into spirituality and healing and you know probably more than you'd care to about The Ego. But even though whichever interpretation you use typically conjures up a negative image, the ego actually has many valuable lessons to offer.
In my 20 Questions interview with Sonia Choquette last year (a series I am bringing back soon!), she suggests treating your ego like a pet and giving it a name. I'm no fiction writer, but I like the idea of developing an exercise around treating your ego as a separate character or identity — because that's really what it is. The ego is designed to keep you safe — for instance, by imagining all the things that could go wrong on a road trip so that you are prepared, with snacks and a tire jack — but it's also a little sly and sneaky, like a devil on your shoulder.
I call my ego "Ivory." It started because I kept thinking of the characters in the movie Inside Out — I had tried exercises like this in the past and the names never stuck, but Fear, Anger, Joy, Disgust and Sadness were portrayed so well on screen, Ivory rings true not just because of the alliteration but also because of the term "ivory tower."
Ivory scowls. A lot. She huffs and puffs around the house, angry at everyone else under the roof for not helping, but she's too aloof and disdainful to open her mouth and ask for the help she thinks she deserves. She thinks a lot of thoughts about lack — never enough help, never enough money, never enough time, energy or resources. Changing up normal routines throws her anxiety into overdrive, and she's really great at self-sabotage...through overeating, overspending, avoidance and distraction. She yells at her kids and she's a horrible communicator, but from up in her ivory tower she'd never admit to any of this if confronted or challenged by those closest to her. She'd just keep riding the crazy train, keeping up appearances on the outside while managing the chaos on the inside, too proud and tangled in the mess of living this way for so long to indulge in even considering another way of living is possible.
My true self I call Luz. Lexie led to Lucy which led to the Spanish word for "light," which is really what we are all made up of on the inside when we step out from behind the shadow of the ego. And believe it or not, I know Luz a lot better than I know Ivory. Luz is quiet, peaceful, humble and good-natured, but she can also be funny, engaging and the life of the party. She is kind and loving, of course to others, but that only comes through having compassion for herself — she is very good at setting boundaries and she has mastered the art of self care, of following her bliss and doing what feels good. Perhaps most importantly, she is friends with Ivory. Even if she forgets momentarily and starts believing in Ivory's fearful messages and her swirling chaos and drama, eventually she remembers that she is Luz, not Ivory — they are two separate and distinct beings — and she doesn't get mad at Ivory. Ivory is her character foil. Yin and yang; angel and devil — loosely. Playfully. With discernment.
I know all of this can sound kooky and wild. But I would rather be kooky and wild than continue to buy into fear-based thoughts and projections! About money, work, health, relationships, LIFE — Luz helps me remember to "lighten up." And, treating her like a close friend or family member also helps me stop the negative chatter in its tracks: Would you tell your best friend or sister that her situation is hopeless and things are never going to get better? Or that she's a big fat loser who will never be successful in business? Of course you wouldn't. But that is what my Ivory would have me believe on some days, and I know you are not immune either. The Ego is universal. There is no denying its existence. It is only through engaging with it in this way, or in the way that works best for you, that a clear picture can be drawn.
I often think of the Robert Frost poem, "Two roads diverged in a wood" — you can take whichever one you want. Probably, in today's world, this road down a more awake and aware path is still the one less traveled...
Take it. It will make all the difference.
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Filed under: Chasing peace